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Access to care and quality of care

by | March 31st, 2009 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (1)

Recently, The Oklahoman criticized OK Policy for our opposition to a proposal under legislative consideration that would waive existing state laws that require insurance companies to provide coverage of basic health benefits as part of any policy for young adults. The editorial asserted that allowing insurance companies to offer “bare-bones coverage” would be an aggressive step in addressing the crisis of the uninsured in Oklahoma.

It’s helpful to begin by reviewing what is actually being considered. HB 2026, authored by Rep. Kris Steele, and HB 1038, authored by Rep. Doug Cox, would both allow insurance companies to offer health insurance products exempt from state benefit requirements in the individual market to persons under the age of 40. Oklahoma currently mandates coverage of about a dozen benefits. But more than half of these benefit requirements apply only for group coverage or for adults over the age of 40 (here’s an example of an apparent mandate that would be unaffected by these bills –  coverage of routine obstetrical/gynecological exams is required only for group policies covering 50 employees or more).

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Online Budget Guide–Comments

by | March 31st, 2009 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (2)

Here’s where users of OK Policy’s Online Budget Guide may post comments, which could include questions, suggestions for additions, requests for data, and thought-provoking arguments. If at all possible, please let us know which page you were looking at so we can put the comment in context.

Simply fill in the comment box below to leave your comment. We’ll check regularly for comments and post our responses here, so keep checking back.

Thanks for helping improve the Guide and joining in the discussion of Oklahoma budget issues.

Why We Blog

by | March 31st, 2009 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

The OK Policy blog has been a long time coming. As we begin our experiment with what is, for us at least, a new way of communicating with our audiences, we want to let you know why we’re doing this and what you may expect from this effort. At least initially, we see our blog posts serving one or more of the following purposes:

  • Providing information about us. We’ll let you know on the blog when we’ve put out new issue briefs, fact sheets and articles, or when our work has been published or cited elsewhere;
  • Posting original research. The blog will allow us to release shorter, timelier pieces on emerging issues. This may be a single chart or graph on state revenue collections or a brief analysis of a bill – the blog will let us weigh in on more issues and more policy developments;
  • Referring you to interesting and worthwhile analysis, news, and commentary. When a national organization publishes a report on the state fiscal crisis, or the Census Bureau releases new data on health care, or our favorite state editorial boards print something especially insightful or controversial, we’ll help guide you there. The emphasis will be on Oklahoma and on stories in our core areas – budget and taxes, public programs affecting the poor, and economic opportunity; and
  • Sharing our opinions and perspectives. We’re going to try to keep this blog heavy on information and light on attitude. But we’ll regularly take the opportunity to share our opinions and discussion on emerging developments in the policy areas we cover.

Finally, it’s our sincere hope that this becomes an interactive space where we hear from you as much as you hear from us. Whether you agree or disagree with us, feel free to weigh in with comments, suggestions, and criticisms.

Bonus blues

by | March 30th, 2009 | Posted in Blog, Stimulus | Comments (0)

The AP reported Thursday that Oklahoma’s budget shortfall could potentially take another $65  million hit as a result of tax provisions that were included as part of the federal stimulus bill passed by Congress in February. The stimulus bill, or ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act), included several provisions that reduce businesses’ taxable income in 2009 and 2010. Since Oklahoma ties its income tax to federal definitions of taxable income, these federal tax cuts can wind up affecting state revenue collections as well. The most substantial provision – accounting for $46 million in lost revenue for the upcoming budget year – comes from the bonus depreciation allowance, which allows companies to write-off assets more rapidly than under normal law.

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State government in action

by | March 27th, 2009 | Posted in Blog, Capitol Matters, Stimulus | Comments (0)

On Tuesday, Governor Henry convened the second meeting of the 15 member American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Coordinating Council, which brings together Cabinet Secretaries and agency directors with primary responsibility for implementing the myriad provisions of the stimulus bill passed by Congress in February.

The meeting made clear that whatever the typical pace of state government, the response to the passage of the stimulus act has been vigorous and energetic. Every Council member was in attendance, and each reported on a flurry of meetings, conference calls, trips, and hearings related to ARRA. Apparently $2.6 billion in the midst of an economic downturn and growing budget shortfalls does get people’s attention!

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DHS Lecture on the faith community and human services

by | March 26th, 2009 | Posted in Blog, Upcoming Events | Comments (1)

On Thursday, April 2nd, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services is hosting a lecture by  Tony Campolo titled “What Role Should the Faith Community Have in Human Services?”.  The talk is from noon to 1 p.m. at the Will Rogers Theater in Oklahoma City.

According to Campolo’s website, he is professor emeritus at Eastern University and founder of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, an organization that develops schools and social programs in various third world countries and in cities across North America. His latest book is titled Red Letter Christians, A Citizen’s Guide to Faith and Politics.

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Immigrants in an economic downturn

by | March 25th, 2009 | Posted in Blog, Economy | Comments (0)

The New York Times has been running a series of front-page Sunday articles examining the impact that the great wave of recent immigration – both legal and illegal – is having on various sectors and institutions. This week’s piece explored the question of immigrants’ role in the workforce during a time of rising unemployment by focusing on Morristown, a small town of some 25,000 in the Knoxville metropolitan region that saw its Hispanic population double from 2000-2007. Hispanics now make up almost 10 percent of Hamblen County, of which Morristown is the seat.

Tennessee and Oklahoma share some basic similarities on immigration, both being relatively new frontiers of Hispanic immigration over the past 10-20 years that have swung between integrationist and exclusionary policy approaches. Since Tennessee, with an unemployment rate a full 3.5 percentage points higher than ours, has experienced the recession sooner and more severly than we have, it may provide some clues as to what we might expect in Oklahoma if our downturn deepens.The evidence from the article is inconclusive.

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Come on in. Let’s talk.

by | March 25th, 2009 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

It seems that the level of discussion surrounding the policy decisions facing our nation and our state have degenerated into more political rhetoric and partisan bickering than sincere efforts to come to a consensus that is best for the people. Even basic necessities of such a discussion, such as facts, have given way to the desire to win the issue. The issues facing our country as a whole, and our state in particular, are getting more and more complex as our discourse gets more and more polarizing and simplistic. The purpose of this blog is not to feed the negative aspects of the political debate, but to offer a forum that indulges the positive aspects of a policy discussion.

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Center on Budget launches redesigned website

by | March 24th, 2009 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

Many of you who have followed the work of OK Policy will know that our model for top-quality, credible, and timely research is the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington-based policy organization that works at the federal and state levels on fiscal policy and public programs that affect low- and moderate-income families and individuals. The Center has just redesigned its website and I encourage you to check it out.  The site includes a new feature, the myCenter account, which allows you to personalize the content you receive through their site and receive e-mail alerts according to your interests.

In addition to emerging research on state fiscal woes, the federal budget, cap-and-trade proposals, and other timely subjects, the Center also has an unparalleled set of papers that provide  introductory overviews of federal budget and tax policy and major safety net programs. If you’ve always wanted to know more about Section 8 housing, TANF, or the earned income tax credit but didn’t know where to look, this is the place.

Falling, falling

by | March 24th, 2009 | Posted in Blog, Economy | Comments (0)

As we showed in the March edition of Numbers You Need, the number of laid-off Oklahomans receiving unemployment benefits is skyrocketing. An average of 4,881 workers filed first-time claims in January, an increase of 149 percent compared to September 2008. Continuing UI claims have increased by 80 percent over the same period, as the state’s unemployment rate jumped from 3.8 percent to 5.0 percent.

With more laid-off workers receiving UI benefits, the balance in the state’s  UI Trust Fund is starting to tumble. As you can see from the chart below, the UITF balance reached a peak in August 2008 and has been falling steadily since. Its current balance, $763 million, is a full $100 million less than in August.

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